With Earth Defense Force 2017 Portable rolling out on the PlayStation Vita on Tuesday, I figured I’d write up a short column about two of the many “They don’t make ’em like they used to!” sci-fi films that most assuredly influenced Japanese developer Sandlot when they created their cult favorite game series that got its start as a pair of budget PlayStation 2 games (The Simple 2000 Vol. 31: The Chikyuu Boueigun and The Simple 2000 Vol. 81: The Chikyuu Boueigun 2) and a more visually polished Xbox 360 sequel which has been nicely expanded and enhanced for Sony’s portable system. Both flicks are “B” movie classics worth watching if you’ve never seen either previously, with the former film being surprisingly tense and well-acted considering the subject matter and the latter film using some pretty well done matte work to convincing effect in a few scenes.
Yeah, yeah, there’s no fancy CGI here and some implausible moments in both flicks can be eyeball-rolling if you start applying any rules of reality to what you’re viewing. Nevertheless, if you’re in the right mood, you’ll be hooked into both films from the memorable beginnings of each one and stick around to their bitter endings…
Of course, if you’re terrified of insects, both films will bug you, with Tarantula probably being the more “scary” to the arachnophobia suffers out there thanks to the use of a live spider for much of the special effects. Them! uses some nicely designed mechanical ants, a great sound effect that will creep into your head and some excellent editing throughout to provide some fine scares when the big bugs finally make their appearance about a third of the way into the film. Granted, actual science goes out the window in both films, but if you’re not too picky about some stuff not making much sense in today’s world, you’ll be entertained. Actually, given today’s “internet smart” folks who only retain stuff when they Google or Bing and forget it a few hours later (or once they need to charge their phones or other devices), I’d not be surprised to find out someone in the not too distant future thinking these flicks are documentaries.
Anyway, it’s also interesting to see how radiation plays a part in both films. With the former, it’s what causes the ants to get so huge and nasty. In the latter, it’s a secondary element that happens to be part of the formula used by a scientist (Leo G. Carrol) in an attempt to grow jumbo-sized animals as a means to help the world deal with potential future food shortages. Of course, why he’s grown a few white rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and the titular tarantula to plus-size proportions might make the less science-oriented wonder why he didn’t start in on steers and pigs instead (imagine the size of the grill you’d need to cook a “small” 20-lb steak… or the cast iron fry pan that would fit a slice of bacon the size of a long table). But then again, this film would have been called Hog or Cow or something dumb like that.
Eh, there’s still time for someone to mess these gems up with a campy remake one day, but I say check out both of these greats for a fun trip back to when audiences ate up anything that played around with their fears while being entertaining on a few fronts…